Rating: 3 out of 10
Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Everything seems to be looking up for ex-special forces agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) as he seems to be reconnecting with his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and things are also going well with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), but then trouble rears its ugly head and Mills is framed for a murder that puts him against a new adversary… the police!
You have every right to be skeptical of another action movie based on the special skills of Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills, because there’s only so much that can be done with the concept of kidnapping the relative of a former government agent before things start getting silly.
Considering how much money Taken and its sequel made, one should have expected that Fox would want to make the obligatory third movie to “complete the trilogy,” so Luc Besson and his writing partner Mark Kamen have hacked out another ridiculous plot to try to keep things going while promising a conclusion.
(SPOILERS ahead for those who haven’t seen the trailer.)
The idea behind this movie is that someone has killed Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore and he’s been framed for the murder, and you’re right if you realize that’s the exact same plot as “The Fugitive,” even having Mills run into a storm drain to escape the police. There’s a lot more to it because while on the run, Bryan also has to find those responsible for killing Lenore while also protecting his daughter Kim, but that’s about it.
Those going into this third movie just for the action may have to be patient as the set up to Lenore’s death is a lot of family moments as we’re reintroduced to Mills and his overprotective relationship with his daughter. His ex-wife Lenore is having marital problems with her new husband Stuart (Dougray Scott), who blames Bryan’s involvement in their life as the fault of said problems. Shortly after that, Lenore is dead and Bryan is suspected so he goes on the lam from the police.
Forest Whitaker plays the eccentric police detective in charge of the investigation on Mills, and he has a lot of quirky habits and rituals, from carrying around a chess piece to playing with rubber bands. We never learn why nor does it matter, but in an early scene, he finds a bag of bagels Bryan was bringing to Lenore at the crime scene. Not only does he tamper with the evidence but he then takes a bite out of the bagel. If that doesn’t seem odd enough, he later is seen going into the bagel place to have another bagel, which seems like a non-sequitur until it’s explained later on as the reason hew knew Mills was innocent. If that was the case, why were so many lives put in danger as they chase him through the streets and highways around L.A.?
In another scene, Kim’s morning routine of getting a yogurt drink is used as a plot device that leads to the police chasing her into the ladies’ room. Did we mention that earlier in the movie, we learn that Kim is pregnant although she’s afraid to tell her overprotective father, who turns up at her door with a giant stuffed panda? He’s obviously not aware of this when he literally poisons her yogurt in hopes it sends her to the bathroom where they can rendezvous, something the police quickly figure out basically following her into the bathroom.
Again, none of this stuff feels like it was thought out properly, so there are plot holes within the plot holes and none of it makes any sense. (I’m not even going to get into the fact that Maggie Grace is a little old to be playing a “girl” in college, even grad school.) This time, Mills brings in his trusted colleagues to help him (including Leland Orser) and they roll out some of the most ridiculous technology, stuff we’re more likely to see in a “Mission: Impossible” movie. So apparently, ex-government operatives are allowed to keep all their high-tech toys once they retire? Guess so.
Because Neeson and Whitaker are both decent actors—as are Janssen and Grace for that matter—the dramatic scenes aren’t altogether bad, and Whitaker does make a good sounding board for Neeson to act against. But then you have Dougray Scott as Lenore’s second husband Stuart, who gives such an awful and awkward performance, how could you not immediately suspect him of being somehow involved with his wife’s death? I mean, he’s acting so guilty from the moment he shows up to tell Mills to stay away from his wife that you know something is wrong.
Scott is so unbelievably terrible that when we finally return to the Russian bad guy introduced in the opening prologue (who is quickly forgotten for nearly 40 minutes), he isn’t the worst part of the movie when in most cases, he should be. But it’s still pretty atrocious, firstly because Russians are already overused as the bad guys in action movies—again, what happened to original ideas?–but this guy is made out to be the Russian equivalent of Bryan Mills, so what happens when they eventually face off? Not a hell of a lot. He doesn’t prove to be much of a challenge despite the decision to go into his backstory to build-up to something bigger.
As much as I want to give director Olivier Megaton the benefit of the doubt, everything that’s bad about this movie can be directly blamed on his direction, and this isn’t his first bad sequel either. Maybe it’s because Besson produced the movie as well as wrote it that Megaton basically made the movie as written, but a better director would have made changes accordingly rather than sticking to the terrible script*.
The action scenes are shot and edited in such a cut-up way it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on. Every once in a while, we get a close-up of Liam Neeson to make it seem like it’s him driving the car, but otherwise there’s not nearly enough action and most of it just seems like the usual things we see in a Besson action movie. When you’ve gotten to this point in a franchise, you expect to be blown away by the action and it’s just nothing special, other than one memorable stunt involving a car and an airplane.
Trying to keep the movie’s violence quotient within a suitable PG-13 rating is another major flaw, beginning with the bloodless gunshot wounds. Add to that the use of partial nudity and obvious moments when someone is saying the F-word and it’s dubbed as “screw,” and this becomes the type of crap we expect when these movies air on network television, not for the first-run theatrical experience. For this reason alone, Taken 3 should be deemed guilty of following the “Die Hard” franchise straight into the toilet.
Besson had something good going with the original Taken and as is often the case with far too many of his original ideas, they get diluted the more times he goes back to the same well. Taken 3 is absolute garbage and unfortunately, if it makes money, they’ve already set up what can be done in a fourth movie.
The Bottom Line:
An absolutely awful sequel, Taken 3 makes Taken 2 seem like Taken 1. This time around, the only thing getting taken is your money.
*As a side note, I normally separate my reviews and interviews, but I got the impression from talking to Megaton that he doesn’t even want to be making action movies like this anymore. You can really tell from watching what he crapped out this time. He probably already got paid, so why should he care?